This Means War

9 03 2017

I have been wrestling with something lately and I couldn’t put my finger on the word until today. It was a few things all in a row that lifted it to the surface. Its not a new pain; its an ongoing thing and I have a soul sadness over it that I know will never go away, not in this life.

I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” recently. Such a great and inspiring movie but I walked away feeling low. It is shameful that the stories about these amazing and gifted ladies happened the way they happened. The line in the movie that got me was, of course, when Mrs. Mitchell (who is white) does her best to seem empathetic to what the African-American women were going through. She says,

Mrs. Mitchell: Dorothy, despite what you might think, I have nothing against y’all.
Dorothy: I know. I know you believe that.

That line…that line is just so loaded with meaning.

The sadness for me is that no matter how hard the races try to “not have anything against one another” there is so much material from the past that can never be rewritten, never be undone, never be excused, never atoned for…not truly. And it is not just in the past — that is the worst thing — it isn’t really changing. It might change in one area but it is like when you poke the stuffing back into a pillow and it bulges out of a tear somewhere else. Sorry to be pessimistic. There is so much that a person “of colour* has has walked through and will continue to walk through that I don’t even know how it can be mended. (*About that term “of colour” — really so ridiculous that this is even a description of a human being. A “person of colour”, what does that even mean? It implies there is a colourless race and then all the rest…a whole other set of human beings like there are only two categories. That term perpetuates the problem).

I walked out of that movie longing to be right with my fellow human beings of all shades — without the barriers we have created because of our sin. I wish we could just purely enjoy one another and live with one another without underlying judgements or any evil sense of superiority or inferiority.

But we left the path so long ago. We have not loved what God has loved and so the “colourless” and the “coloured” are at…here is the word: war.

A long time ago a group of people landed on the shores of what would later be called Canada and they took it. They didn’t ask for it, they just took it. If that wasn’t bad enough, they elevated themselves to believe that they were more human than those already present on the property. From there it was just a massacre in every way. If murder was not enough, for those who remained they squeezed the culture almost totally out of its original inhabitants. They tried to refashion them in their own likeness so that even the “Aboriginal” people could barely recognize themselves. The conquerors told them, “sit here and don’t move,” giving them what they thought would be an adequate life for an lesser people, and they had the audacity to think they were helping. They even gave them a misrepresentation of a Saviour to follow which was possibly the most damaging thing of all.

And so we have lived separate lives. We have crossed paths in recent years. We have forged friendships — but friendships? Some people work really hard at it, and even that tells a story. Why do we have to work so hard at something that should be just natural? Its uneasy. There is still a them and us. One group meets here. One group meets there. There is still so much suspicion and division. The recovery is slow, so very slow…and I am not sure if  there can ever be an end to the war with this nation and its First Nation with so much left unsaid and so much left undone.

This gives me such an ache. God, I wish we could turn back the hands of time so that we could love each other the way You always have. He says, “I know, I warned you.”

And then yesterday was International Women’s Day. I love who woman are when they live out their calling confidently! I love seeing that person,  fashioned by our Creator, doing things she couldn’t imagine herself capable of — whatever it is! I love her spice and her courage and voice and her humour and her contribution whether she is reserved or all out there. I love when she just does what she does and has the room to do so.

But yesterday, it couldn’t be ignored, there was a Woman’s Day because there is enmity between women and men. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau posted on Instagram a photo of herself and her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, celebrating on Women’s Day the men who celebrate Women’s Day too. And she heard about it! It was not the time (many felt), it was not the place to even mention men in the equation because there are too many women who are not free, who face male-imposed barriers and ceilings and rules and economic disparity. There are too many closed doors and too much demeaning behaviour, and there is too much conflict at each difficult step forward for women all over the world.

The point of this post is just to say — we are fighting. Men and Women are at each other and this was not the original idea either. We were supposed to be boosting each other up, helping each other over the wall, challenging one another with different viewpoints, strengthening the other when weariness set in, and yet…and yet…we are at war with one another.

In the “old days” those of faith spoke and sang of heaven more. Weary bodies with hopeful voices, looking forward to something better than this. Wealth and credit have fooled us into thinking this can be paradise, but it’s not. It certainly is not, because we are at war. We keep striving to fix things — it is a noble effort (not always noble, but many do so with good hearts) but as long as we have selfishness and greed and a damaged view of one another…how far can we take this?

Isaiah 2:4

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

— Teresa Klassen

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When You Have Turned Around Again

2 04 2012

If you have someone in your life that your heart aches for; someone struggling, unable to land in a solid place, especially in their relationship with Jesus; then this is a passage that will make sense to you. You can substitute that person’s name for Simon’s in these verses,  spoken (tenderly, as I hear it) by Jesus in Luke 22:31-32:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

I think these two verses describe the struggle of someone who is walking a line: pulled to the left by all the deceptions of the world; unable to break free from evil’s gravitational pull to rise up for what is noble, right and pure; lovely, excellent and worthy of respect (Philippians 4:7-9). Oh how real that is: wrestling with temptation. You would think the Goodness of God would be enough to attract us; that the contrast would be obvious enough for someone to run from one towards the other, but it is not. Satan has his footholds, his hooks, and he is more than tenacious in his mission to “steal, kill and destroy.”

Jesus saw what was going on with His friend. Satan did not want Simon to live in the light and was determined to push Simon to the left of the line and crush his faith in Jesus. In response, Jesus’ words are so simple: I will pray that your faith will not fail.

Do you ever wonder how to pray for people? I do. Especially lately, I have really been listening to myself pray and sometimes my words don’t even make sense; and sometimes I over-think what is God’s part, what is my part, and then I find myself stumped on what to actually ask for.

I love the simplicity of Jesus’ words in this passage. It is a prayer for people who have had faith and might now only have a smidgen of it left; pray that their faith will not fail. That’s a good prayer.

I especially love the next part. I see Jesus looking directly into Peter’s eyes because it carries a bit of a challenge: “But when you have turned again…” how hopeful is that? How “assuming” is that? Jesus’ words are SO filled with anticipation. We have to have hope for people; we must pray knowing that the light of Christ is so much greater than the darkness. Don’t lose faith for the person you are praying for; can you picture them turning around?

“But when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  I really love this too. There is no sitting around in the kingdom; if we are in Christ, we are living out the mission He calls us to. Get busy. In the parable of the “talents” three types of people are described (some who have been entrusted with much, some who are working with less) and the point is, everyone is engaged in the work, whether it appears to be a great big assignment or a small one. So when you turn around, and you will, don’t sit around.

Jesus knows Simon (Peter) is about to royally mess up. Peter is going to have a massive amount of regret for something super-dumb he is about to do and Jesus says these beautiful words: you are about to go through a really trying time and you won’t even know who you are. Remember who you are in me. When you find your feet again, use what you have learned and strengthen people around you.

Win. Win.

I have people I am praying for where these words of Jesus’ are completely fitting. They are walking a line right now, not really being who they were called to be. I am praying that this will be a sifting experience and through it all, they will not lose their faith. And when they turn…yes, they will turn…they will strengthen people around them; their footing will be sure; they will be a force to be reckoned with.

May it be so. Amen.

— Teresa Klassen





I Won’t Recognize Me

25 08 2011

When I am 80, should I make it, there are going to be some noticeable changes. If in reasonable health, I will undoubtedly be dealing with a body that can’t sprint up the stairs. My skin will be wrinkled. I will have surrendered the habit of dying my hair and it will be what it wants to be. I think I will shake more; my mother’s hands shake and I am noticing mine are doing that more and more even now. Glasses won’t be optional.

When I am 80 with my children grown and on their own journey, I hope to be content but by no means idle. If I have a good mind still, I hope it will be a good mind so that my heart can follow, making me still of good use to the very, very end.

When I am 80 will I smile at 43 and say, “My how you have changed!” I don’t mean the hair, the wrinkles, the body; will I be noticeably different in mind and heart?  Will it be obvious to me that I have changed, that I have “become” the vessel the Potter had in mind?

The Bible is laced with references about being made new:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

New. Am I even now, newer than I was a few months ago? This is an actual question I want to answer because, as a follower of Jesus, “What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people,” Galatians 6:15 says (NLT). Being new matters to me because I am not walking this walk so that I can mark down “Christian” for my religious affiliation. I want, most desperately, to be new. I want, most noticeably, for there to be reformation in my life.

Following Christ is aging in reverse in some ways, though my body will do what it does, my heart and mind have the opportunity to be continually renewed and stay green like a tree. Old things actually pass away – old grudges, old stubbornness, old bitterness, old stupidity, old fears, old judgments, old pride, old insecurities, old disobedience, old ideas, old blindness – and as a result I can more fully live.

I say “I have the opportunity to” and “I can” change because I am not sure if this is a guarantee. I could be wrong, but I have the ability to dig in my heels and though the Spirit may urge me, I can disobey.

Newness, the result of submission to the Spirit, should be noticeable. Perhaps not always publicly, in the way that I might receive “The Most Noticeably Changed” award. But surely I should be able to see it in myself, and without a doubt these changes should impact others as I become more loving, more gentle, more kind, more patient, more loyal, more teachable, more approachable, more gracious, more giving, more forgiving, more humble.

Newness means my love for Jesus and His Words will have grown, my love for my neighbor and my community will have become more responsive, my desire for others to know about new life would only be natural.

When I am 80 will this show? I mean will I see how I have taken God’s Word to heart? Will the lessons taught to me have stuck? Will layers have peeled away, leaving me freer from myself and more able to walk like Jesus?

What will be new about me? What is being made new in me right now, today?

When I am 80 (God help me!) I want to look in the mirror and be amazed at what God can do with an ordinary girl like me; I want to stare long and hard at the years written on my face and hardly recognize myself from that 43 year old who wrote this post on August 25th, 2011. Who could have known, I will think, that at 80 I wouldn’t be old at all; I would be new.

— Teresa Klassen





You Have A Future: Part 2

14 11 2010

Part two: WHO YOU ARE IN THE FUTURE

* This is written with women in mind; but maybe men can relate too.
Let’s look at “the future” from another angle. What age do you (or did you) look forward to the most? Was it becoming a teenager at thirteen? Was it or will it be Sweet Sixteen? How about twenty-one? What do things start looking like after you are twenty-one?

As ridiculous as it sounds, people live as if there is an optimal age. They don’t like being too young so when they are 10 they say they are 10-and-a-half or they say, “I am almost eleven.” When people are in their twenties, they usually stop saying things like that but live like there is no tomorrow. By the time they are twenty-five or twenty-six they are likely to moan,  “I can’t believe I am almost thirty!” as if thirty is a death-sentence.

So, you have been given this life and are you going to buy into the lie that only 10 years is the best part of it? From twenty-five on the future is downhill? If you live until you are eighty, that means seventy years are spent looking in on the people who are having a good time. Are you willing to accept that kind of future?

I realize that ninety percent of the magazines on the shelf today are promoting the lie that youth and beauty are the highest achievements any woman can expect to have; that’s ridiculous!  If you want to be angry about something, be angry about that! The world is scrambling to find the magic formula that will keep us from aging, but you want the TRUTH don’t you? You are aging right now, and it is all good! The future isn’t behind you, it is in front of you.

You are going to live your life and you are going to live it the best you possibly can in the most important way you can. You might live your life in the public eye, or you may live it behind the scenes, but you will live it well, being kind to yourself and kind to others today and tomorrow and into the future.

Psalm 92 says it so beautifully:

Those who live God’s Way shall flourish like the palm tree (stately, upright, useful!); they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon (majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible)…[Growing in grace] they shall still have a fruitful life in old age; they will stay fresh and green! They are living memorials to show that God is faithful to His promises

People make themselves miserable by trying to fit into an age that they aren’t anymore. Decide while you are young to look forward to the future and all it brings. Look forward to being yourself at what ever age you are at. Every year you get to be alive is a year of opportunity, so celebrate it rather than regret something you are powerless to change. Your body knows what it is supposed to do, it is supposed to age and along the way you are to become wiser and enter into deep and life-changing relationships with God and the people around you.

When you were conceived a future began. Nine months later, you were nine months in. One day you rolled over, one day you blew out your first candle. One day you stood in line for Kindergarten. One day you rode a bike for the first time. One day you lost a tooth. There is a theme here, isn’t there? Change. Never, since the first cell split into two cells were you ever standing still. You were never designed to live one year over and over again. You were designed to keep moving into the future, to “become” something different and more than you are right now, to do something that matters, and to connect meaningfully with the One who made you.

It ultimately comes down to an “attitude of gratitude,” doesn’t it? You (yes you) are privileged enough to be breathing in oxygen today. You are alive, you have made it this far. There is obviously a reason for you so don’t stall out in the narrow little corridor called “youth.” Don’t always wish you were older if you are young, and don’t wish you were younger if you are inching past it. Be grateful, GRATEFUL, that there is blood in your veins and a purpose for you to fulfill. Lean in and LIVE. Don’t waste a moment wishing you were someone or somewhere else.

You have the ability to decide some important things for yourself; I hope you will make one of those decisions the one that proudly declares — out loud — the age you are at.

It is an accomplishment.

 

— Teresa Klassen





A Cup Of Who I Am?

19 08 2010

Strange, the things you remember. When I was around 10 years old my family made a trip to California to go to Disneyland. I hardly recall anything about the trip (except, “It’s a Small World,” for obvious reasons), but I do remember staying somewhere along the way at a little motel with a pool.

We had driven a long, long way that day in a very small car and when dad pulled up to the motel and it had a sign that said “Heated Outdoor Pool,” that was (to quote Seinfeld) “Gold, Jerry; gold!” We couldn’t get the suitcases into the room fast enough! I ripped through mine, found the suit, and was out like lightening to the pool’s edge where I stopped short. The pool was completely green; not just a shade green, it was unmistakably, thick-and-rich, pea green; a soup-bowl only the Jolly Green Giant could appreciate.

Imagine my disappointment! I couldn’t believe it. I dragged my feet (a special ability kids have) back to the room and lay on the floor, on my back, in my swimsuit, staring unresponsively at the ceiling. I thought bad thoughts about the management. How could anyone let something so good, so beautiful, so refreshing, go? The pool was right there, it was once a place of unparalleled joy, and now it was a cesspool.

Proverbs 25:26 is telling me to hang onto that image because, “If the godly give in to the wicked, it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring.” The idea of “giving in” is to totter, slip, to be dislodged or to let something fall; to be shaken so as to be overthrown.

That could happen to me.  I could be someone who was once a refreshing presence to others, but I could totter, slip, be dislodged; I could let something fall; I could be shaken up so that I end up many, many shades away from who I want to be.

God loves everyone, but that doesn’t mean everyone is living in a way that God loves. There is something called “wicked.” There are things that make God wince and sigh and shake His head. There really are things that anger Him. If I could ask God to not be angry, would I? Never! I am glad that God, who made me, has standards. I am glad that His goodness is 100% good without anything I need to overlook. I am glad this means He doesn’t overlook things in me either; and it makes it a gigantic relief that Jesus died for my wickedness, taking my sins, though they were like scarlet, making my heart as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

What is so awful is when you take a redeemed child of God, someone forgiven, someone who has been made new by the love of God and somewhere along the way they begin to choose “wicked” over good. Proverbs 26:11 has the best description of this: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” It is unthinkable that someone who understands the word “saved” in terms of what Jesus has done for us would now go back to what they were before. This is like filling a sweet, clear spring with mud.

Can’t imagine doing that? It happens all the time. Sometimes it is a dramatic fall; an obvious big step between what a person knows is right and something that is clearly and obviously wrong.  Usually, it looks like someone teetering on the edge between what is good and godly and what is wicked. Usually it involves little compromises. Most often wicked creeps up, like a little spot of green at the bottom of a pool.

As I am writing, I realize it would be easy to deflect this topic.  I could read and write this and think, “Be careful, don’t do anything bad.”  But here is what is also wicked: a lack of gentleness, unkindness, unforgiveness, bitterness, stubbornness, gossip, selfishness, self-righteousness, judgement; all of these things darken the waters. All of these things make me an unrefreshing presence.

This summer Josh, who drinks A LOT of milk, was not around; so the milk sat in the fridge a little too long. I grabbed the jug one day and poured myself a glass and took a big drink, assuming the best.  It was not. I had anticipated that cold wonderfulness and instead I got something extremely distasteful.

What do people anticipate when they walk up to me? Do they expect one thing and get another? Green and unmaintained instead of cool and clear; sour instead of nutritious and thirst-quenching?

At any moment, in any place, Jesus asks His followers to be a refreshing presence to others. I guess the question I am left with today is, can I take a cup of who I am and offer it to someone, freely and without checking first?

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: This is the only book I have read by Beth Moore and I have to say that it covered this topic excellently.

Canada: WHEN GODLY PEOPLE DO UNGODLY THINGS: Finding Authentic Restoration in the Age of Seduction

U.S.: When Godly People Do Ungodly Things: Arming Yourself in the Age of Seduction





Consider: The Rock From Which You Were Cut

10 08 2010

Part 8 of “Consider This”

Who am I?

Am I the product of my parents? His genes, her genes and there you have me?

Am I little of him and a little of her and a dash of my grandparents so that you could slice and dice me and say “this came from this side of the family” and “this came from that side.”  Is that who I am?

If I look to my future and all that I might be someday, do I look at the watermark left by my ancestors and hope to meet, or perhaps exceed it slightly? On the other hand, do I look at them and say, “This is all I will amount to?”

Am I my country, my city, my neighborhood, my house? Am I “that” person, “that” label, “that” and no more?

What about if life has left marks on me along the way, so that I can hardly even see whom I was if I wanted to? Maybe at one time there was potential but now, now there are all these dents, rust, pieces missing. Is this who I am?

How relevant, how irrelevant are all of those things? Will they be a leg-up for me or prove to continually ride and deride me? Will they shelter me or disable me?

Turn around and look, Isaiah 51:1 says: “Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined.”

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

How have we forgotten this? Do we think we came from some landfill? Some chemical cocktail? Some mistake? How are we able to look at our own picture and just see an imprint of something we are stuck with, and not more, so much more? Only because

You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:18)

Remember: you have a number on your birth-certificate, a mother and a father, relatives and more relatives, but you are more than this collection. You may have been handed blessings by them, or you may have been handed curses; this matters, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as knowing the Rock from which you were cut in the first place and with absolute hope and assurance, raising your hands to your Maker you can say (shout if you will!):

‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’ (Psalm 89:26)

On those days when you wonder who you are, consider the Rock from which you were cut and the quarry from which you were mined because this is who you are.

— Teresa Klassen