To the very, very end.

11 10 2014

pruningtool1“He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b)

It’s really dumb to think you can be perfect, but sometimes I think I have achieved some measure of it. When things are rolling just right

I’m on time,

work is done,

made a list,

followed the map,

double-checked,

said something smart,

was extra nice,

my ego kisses the mirror. It’s delusional, but it happens.

If it was simply about doing things the best I can, that would be one thing, but behind it I know I want to be right…and standing behind that I don’t want to fail…and behind that is a fear of exposure…and behind that is a fear of rejection…and behind that stands a whole row of fear and lies and this my friends is why John 15:2b exists.

Yesterday’s post was all about “non fruit bearing branches.” You get the impression the gardener is trimming whatever is stubbornly refusing to really be a part of His design. I have never wanted to be that person. I have stayed as far away from that line as possible. I have always wanted to live the way the Bible leads us to live but here I read even the ones who are on track, producing fruit, get pruned.

“There is no one righteous. Not even one.” Romans 3:10

No one gets a pass. No individual branch is “right” or good to go, not even one. There is no exception or loophole, every branch is tended.

This could really be fuel for the perfectionist to add to the to-do list, but as I have been reflecting on this, I realize how important it is to remember who is doing the work in this passage. It isn’t me deciding what pet-project to work on today, it is the Gardener pruning. The Gardener deciding what must go, what must change, what needs binding, what needs supporting…it is the Gardener. He can tell: the Vine is One Way and if we are another the Gardener can tell. To anyone else we may seem just fine, but He knows. He knows about the lineup of fear and lies that get in the way of the Life and Freedom He offers.  This is not about adding something more, it is about trust and surrender.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (Psalm 139:1)

The Gardener looks at me, what is inside of me, and sees what I can’t or what I refuse to. It may be the smallest thing or it may be an elephant but, for my own good and the good of His kingdom, it has got to go. Maybe it can go with one little snip; maybe it will take years but we can be sure that all of us will receive this kind of attention. This kind of loving, hard, patient, persistent attention.

I am 46 and my earliest memories all include Jesus. I have always loved Him and have wanted to be a follower in “right” standing. At the same time, I have always known I fail at this. I am a sinner. At 46 I haven’t stopped sinning but at this age I have a deeper understanding of it. When I was younger, I really thought I could trick the system, but at 46 I know I do not have the capability.

In my heart I see sinful tendencies, so there is no way I could ever accept that I am a “good person.” I can think noble things, do noble things, but lurking there in the shadows is always the ignoble. My confessions come quicker, my admissions are more readily made. My gratitude is more profound. I think I am more honest today then I was when I was 20 and still attempting to be perfect.

I recognize pruning more than I did back then. Here too there is pride, and not the good kind: I ask myself, “Really, at 46 you haven’t learned (interpretation: perfected) this?” No, I haven’t. But at 46 I recognize God’s love mixed in with the pain of His pruning. I still squirm when I see those shears; I wish I sat still right from the start, but I don’t. It taxes the plant to be pruned, that’s for sure, but I do know it is because I matter enough to my Father that He prunes me and this is pretty amazing too. In the end it will be good.

God is all about the good.

One day, as my mother was dying she was very restless. She was literally wrestling in her spirit and asked us to pray for her. I could see the turmoil and I was a little angry with God that this woman of faith should have to experience such a hurdle at this point,

“Really Lord? She has to go through this now? Hasn’t she been through enough?”

And then, some time later this peace washed over her and she said, “I needed to know, am I really forgiven? Is it true what Jesus has said, that He has really forgiven me for my sin? I am really loved?  And yes. I am.”

It was like the Gardener could see in her that little doubt and to finish her walk here on earth, for the very last bit of her journey He wanted this branch He had tended for 75 years to be free of that lie, the one that says Jesus is not quite enough and we are not quite adopted.

Fellow sojourner, He prunes every branch, even the ones so dedicated to bearing fruit, so that we will bear more fruit. There is no retirement, no Florida, no “old and useless.”

We are branches planted by the water, roots drinking from the stream, not fearing when heat [or pruning] comes; leaves are always green. We have no worries in a year of drought and never fail to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8 paraphrase).

Green to the very, very end.

— Teresa Klassen

 

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Sanctuary

9 12 2012

ps37_7From time to time Michael gives me a gift certificate for a massage; oh I do love a massage! The room is temperate, the lights are low, soft music is playing, the oils are all warmed and ready for the knots in my shoulders; heaven! For an hour I don’t lift, I don’t carry, I don’t care as all the tension is worked out of me. But, and this is strange, when the therapy first begins a STORM goes off in my head! While the rest of me is quiet, it’s like every thought gets up and chases around the room. So, while the therapist kneads my muscles, I have to tell my every thought to sit down a while.

How often is my mind not at rest?

I am not even sure that I am aware of what is all buzzing around up there most of the time. My mind is used to

  • thinking,
  • planning,
  • dreaming,
  • fixing,
  • speculating,
  • analyzing,
  • worrying,
  • praying,
  • warning,
  • musing,
  • fuming,
  • imagining,
  • deciding,
  • strategizing,
  • steering,
  • sifting,
  • sorting…

Oh, it knows when to shut up so I can sleep at night; it has to pause or it couldn’t do what it does every day. It can handle eight hours biding its time, but it is ready with its list of reminders, questions, thoughts and ideas, people, places and things as soon as the lights are on.

Now, here is the trouble with that: sometimes things happen in our lives and all of our

  • thinking,
  • planning,
  • dreaming,
  • fixing,
  • speculating,
  • analyzing,
  • worrying,
  • praying,
  • warning,
  • musing,
  • fuming,
  • imagining,
  • deciding,
  • strategizing,
  • steering,
  • sifting,
  • sorting…

will not bring a fix to it. Sometimes our present circumstances are beyond our abilities to remedy and all we are able to do is one very difficult thing: wait.

This is where I am right now – waiting — and sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself.

Waiting feels interminable. I have counted the days so far: 43.  For forty-three days I have cooked and I have eaten; I have worked and carried on; I have met with people and have had conversations. I have had the flu; still have the flu. I have found random things to do in the spaces between; like cleaning my closet…twice. I have slept at night and woken up when it was over; and still the waiting is not over. All these things have happened while I have waited; standing up on the outside but sitting down in my soul as the minutes of every day tick by: sixty-one-thousand-nine-hundred-and-twenty minutes.

I am waiting and sometimes I don’t know what to do with my unruly thoughts.

My thoughts wage war. I trust in God; then I fear. I fill my mind with good and true things; then one stray word pulls a plug on them and I have to do it all over again. I tell myself, “Wait, just wait, let God do His work,” but then The Enemy comes and whispers doom to me; that’s when I feel the weight of sixty-one-thousand-nine-hundred-twenty-minutes the most. I wonder if others have to work as hard to quiet the inner saboteur?

I am waiting and sometimes I don’t know what to anticipate.

I have always enjoyed thinking about the future, but it has lost some dimension; the earth feels flat. How do I think about tomorrow? Things are not right. They haven’t been right for 43 days; how much longer? (Please don’t answer that question, Lord, because I know my wait time has, perhaps, only begun.)

Psalm 37:7 speaks to me:

“Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.”

I have been staring at “in the presence of the Lord” this last while and wondering whose presence I have been in lately as I have been waiting. Have I truly been in the company of my Lord, or somewhere nearby? I don’t think I intentionally wander away, out on my own; it is more unintentional, like sleep-walking.

No wonder one can find the phrase “return to me” repeated over and over in the Bible. I am meant to walk in the presence of the Lord.

When I am still and wait in the company of Christ, peace fills the room; soul replenishing words are sung into my ear; faith, hope, courage and love are re-worked into my aching bones. Fear is vanquished in the presence of the Lord; just the confident assurance God will act remains. There is nourishment to fill my emptiness, and comfort for my grief. As I “abide” in the presence of the Lord I am given new strength so that I will not grow weary or faint along the journey; His mercies are new every morning; He is completely faithful to His promises.

In the company of Christ, every resource is available to me whether I need a physician, a counselor, a shepherd, a warrior, an advocate, or simply a friend.

And because of all this, I do stand amazed in the presence of the Lord and how different it is here than on my own; I am reminded again that even though I walk through a valley of shadows, He is with me and in His presence I find sanctuary.

— Teresa Klassen





Nothing Holding Me Back

8 11 2012

This is currently my favorite Song. I have listened to it 50 times today. Thought I would share it with you…





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





Why Molly Shakes

20 02 2012

It’s so strange, this thing about our dog Molly.

She is a beautiful yellow Lab; small for her breed and very smart.  She will lie at our feet for hours on end and make no demands of us; but mention the word “walk” and she will jump like a jack-rabbit as high as your head. And it is surprising how brave this little docile dog can be. She will chase a bear up the hill if it gets too close. She will endure the agony of a rattlesnake bite just to get out in the woods again.  She will square off against a snarling Doberman if it gets close to her people.

And given the go-ahead, her energy knows no end! She will chase a ball until she is exhausted yet never know when to stop. She will retrieve whatever you throw into the water time and time again, farther and farther into the waves. If you even think about going outdoors with her along, she will read your mind and begin wagging her tail ferociously.

If anyone comes to our door and knocks or rings the bell she will bark like a maniac one minute and be their best friend the next.

She looks so well adjusted, but it only takes one little, almost imperceptible thing and Molly will shake from nose to tail, uncontrollably; every time it happens I think she is just going to drop dead from a heart-attack.

What scares the fur off her? A little noise.

Whenever I see her shaking, I have to think, “Was there a noise?” because it is usually so subtle.  I try to figure out the source and I realize, “Oh, it was on TV” or “Oh, somewhere downstairs” or “Oh, across the street.” It is a certain noise pitch that could last for a millisecond yet she practically has a seizure over it.

Today she had an episode and I just put my hand on her head, consoled her, and realized, looking into her fear-filled brown eyes, that she and I have more in common than I like to admit.

There is a “noise” that works on me too and it might be almost imperceptible to others, but it just drains all the courage out of me, all the passion, all the creativity, all the joy for a little while. It ‘s never something I see coming because it happens in random situations, but just like Molly it makes me all shaky and wimpy and ridiculous. Where moments before I felt like I could race up a mountain, in those shaky moments I just want to take a nap; a long nap.

I was reading Mark 8 today and the Pharisees are at it again, making noise. In this case, they come at Jesus with their noisy misguided, cynicism.

Jesus’ first reaction? Verse 12: “He sighed deeply in his spirit.” Isn’t that a picture? What meaning in those six words! To actually affect Jesus so, enough for Mark to write it down! It was a drain on Jesus to hear those words that day, in that way. Jesus was on mission, with the short time He had, to be Good News to the world and then He has a run-in with these self-serving, arrogant, posturing leaders trying to trip Him up at every corner. What did they want? Were they there for the honest-before-God good of the people? Were they just looking for clarity before signing up to carry the cross He later mentions? No. They were first class connivers wearing the cloak of religion. There was nothing righteous about it; it was a front. It made Jesus sigh.

(As an aside, I really don’t want to be one who makes Jesus sigh like that).

Here is where the noise would have gotten to me. I know this, because time and time again it does. I can be eye-ball to eye-ball with something noisy and a good response catches in my throat.  Noise can be so disorienting, it makes me wordy and apologetic and unnerved. Noise makes me “wish I had” instead of bitten my nails over why I didn’t.

But Jesus? He responds; right then and there. It isn’t a “Captain America” response (chest out, deep voice, “ta-da” kind of statement); at least that isn’t how it sounds to me. When I read it I think it is said in a pretty normal tone of voice, with everything left-over being said in His eyes.

You don’t have to be loud when you’re right.

Jesus says it, simply; straight-forward; and then He moves on. He leaves those Pharisees where they were and crosses over the lake to where His friends are and warns them about the noise; warns them about the ones who are just in it for themselves. Be wary: if it sounds like a Pharisee, and acts like a Pharisee, and looks like a Pharisee…it’s a Pharisee.

Ah, teach me your ways Jesus.

I am looking at Molly as I write this. She is napping. I am wondering why that certain noise trips her up every time. She must think she is no match for the noise:

  • even though she has legs to run, and has run for miles and miles without anything catching her (including me);
  • even though she has fantastically sharp canine’s and can strip the bark off trees (or vinyl off hot-tub covers);
  • even though she is an excellent judge of character and can whiff out trouble (and chipmunks).

Even though; she thinks a little noise can get her.

Is that what I think? That I am no match for it?

Sometimes I do.

Thanks for listening, Molly. Thanks for the nuzzle, and the lick on the hand. What do you think…walk?

— Teresa Klassen





Jesus Is Meeting Me Here.

16 09 2011

This is a blog of thankfulness to God, plain and simple, for how He has been meeting me in a season of pain. It isn’t any secret, but if you don’t know us personally, you would not have heard that we are going through a really trying period right now on a few levels, the most significant of which involves one of our kids who isn’t flying straight at the moment.

I won’t speak for my husband Mike, but I feel like I have time-traveled. Just a few weeks ago I was experiencing re-entry from a beautiful time of rest and renewal, so refreshed; I blinked and now, disoriented, I find myself hyperventilating up a winding and rocky footpath in uncharted territory.

But I began by saying that this is a blog of thankfulness to God, plain and simple, for how He has been meeting me in a season of pain, and indeed, He has. This is a declaration of praise for God who is so good that He has taken the time to be so personal with me, to speak to me in a way I can understand.

I am not even sure I can explain it, but for His sake, I will attempt to capture one little thing He has done.

I couldn’t tell you right now what I need. I need something in my soul and if you were to ask me what, I would say, “God only knows” and mean it. I come before God not knowing what I need to hear each day. I don’t know what He can do to help me see. I don’t know what I need to help me parent courageously. I don’t know what will strengthen me. I just come to Him with open hands and know that He knows.

And this is how He has decided to parent me right now: He has decided to give me a song each morning.

The songs are so random, some really old from the memories of my childhood; some are more recent. I don’t know how long He is going to start my day like this, but right now He has decided to do this. Sometimes I have no idea what the words are to the song so I look them up and I am met.

Today a song came to me and I didn’t even get it at first;  I looked it up and as I read the lyrics to this old, old hymn I said, “I don’t know what this is supposed to mean, but I trust there is a reason. I will write it out and see how You speak to me, Lord” and as I did, I saw it and He has flooded me with peace. It is all on theme for what He is saying to me day to day.

Today’s song was Blessed Assurance, a dusty piece published in 1873 by Fanny Crosby (I will post Third Day’s take on this song at the end of this post). This is what I heard today:

Verse 1

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

 Teresa, you can have perfect confidence in one thing: I, Jesus, am yours. No matter what happens, no matter where life leads you, this is one thing that can never be taken from you. It is a sure thing, a constant in your life.  No matter what rages around you, I have given you a view to your ultimate future and it is perfect. I have given you an amazing gift, I have purchased you and you are Mine. You now operate on a different plane and so do I. So lift your eyes beyond what you see right now and you will see that My way is one of salvation. I Am the One who saves. God…blessed be your name!

Verse 2

Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst on my sight. Angels descending, bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Teresa, let yourself go. Let your head rest in My hand. Look at what I am doing in the heavens. If you do this, you will experience the true meaning of the Sabbath: rest. Let Me show you what I see, I Am giving you a vision of what is really going on. Remember how you read about Angels in Psalm 103 the other day? Look now, Angels are descending and they are bringing from above echoes of My mercy, and whispers of My love. This is for you, this is for your child who I love more than you and I Am in pursuit of. My voice will not go unheard. God…blessed be your name!

Verse 3

Perfect submission, all is at rest, I and my Savior are happy and blest. Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Submit, Teresa, submit. It is OK; this is not out of control.  You will find joy in Me even during this time and rich blessings along the way. Keep hope. Watch. Wait. I will give you strength. Keep your eyes on Me at all times and you will see that I am good through and through. When you lose yourself in Me, you will be found. God…blessed be your name!

Chorus

This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long.

This is my story, and there is no other. It is a story of living in the Spirit of praise no matter the current chapter. I am not reading ahead. I have no expectations except that I know He is with me and will give me what I need, daily.

I have been met today. I will be met tomorrow. This is a blog of thankfulness to God, plain and simple.

— Teresa Klassen, one that He loves.





Calling Myself As Partner

26 07 2011

It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally I get (what I think is) an unbeatable hand in Rook; in fact, sometimes I get a hand that is so indomitable that I, feeling invincible, call myself as partner.

In case you aren’t aware, in Rook one usually plays with a silent partner. The person who takes the bid calls a card like, “the red fourteen” and somewhere along the way, when that card is played, you know that person is on your side, helping you, and your points (or losses) in the end are shared. It is usually a real advantage to have that partner; they often save the day. But when your hand ends up being mostly one color and, combined with this, you have one or several of the highest cards, overconfidence sets in and you decide not to share the winning points of your inevitable glorious triumph.

I am typically a conservative Rook player, but something takes over when I think my hand is unconquerable; overconfident, I have at times called myself as partner. Sometimes this works in my favor, sometimes it doesn’t.

There are two problems:

  1. First, as great as my hand is, the winning bid takes the “nest” and you never know what kind of junk you are then going to have to contend with. Sometimes, picking up the nest, I realize my strategy did not count on picking up a bunch of multi-colored lower end point cards. Disaster.
  2. Second, the one who wins the bid does not lead the first play. Not leading the first play can change EVERYTHING. Someone else can gain the control I was counting on and by throwing higher cards in the few colors I have left in my hand can steal significant points.

My problem is, I really only have one strategy. It involves me being in control and me winning. If someone steals my advantage though, I realize I have only thought things through so far. Recently I called myself as partner and tanked.

I can live like this. I can live calling myself as partner; with my own skills and foresight I can move ahead or respond to situations, blind to the fact that “all I know is partial and incomplete” (1 Corinthians 13:12). I don’t know everything; there is, in fact, more I do not know than know.

Do I believe that? I think in some things I do have that sweet feeling of not having to know everything, almost an abandonment of having to know; but that can be fatalism instead of a powerful trust in the Most High God who does know everything. Do you know what I mean? I can just say, “I don’t know” as a sort of excuse or escape, rather than as fuel to push me towards God, to seek Him with all my heart because I am lost and know it. Saying, “I don’t know,” doesn’t mean I am ready to leave room for other people’s wisdom either.

Knowing what I know is partial and incomplete should be a compelling argument for needing, desperately, the guidance of Scripture.

Knowing what I know is partial and incomplete should draw me to prayer often throughout my day.

Knowing what I know is partial and incomplete should increase my love for my fellow sojourners.

Knowing what I know is partial and incomplete is a great mantra for the person who is trying to have faith like a child.

Calling myself as partner is decidedly unwise. I may think I know the hand I have been dealt, but there is still the unknown, and there is still every other natural and supernatural move at play. Do I think I can control the game with my limited information?

Since my knowledge on every subject is partial, I need the “all-wise, all-powerful, and ever-present God” (Jeremiah 42:11 AMP). Since everything I think I do know is still incomplete, I need a perspective that is higher than my ways, and thoughts that are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

If only I could remember this the next time I think I am so smart, completely right and absolutely invincible because sometimes I convince myself that I really am. Sometimes I really do think I am my own best partner; right until I lose a round or two.

— Teresa Klassen