November 27, 2012

When waiting meets the promise ~ an encouragement

In a season of waiting, there is nothing that encourages my heart quite like the story of Simeon and Anna. They are waiting, close to God, in an ancient city full of hope and history.

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying; 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."


I treasure these words as I imagine the joy welling up in Simeon's heart. He takes this precious babe in his arms, knowing He Is the fulfillment of every promise; promises given long ago to the patriarchs, promises given then to Mary and Joseph, and the good news to the Shepherds which reaches across and through time to us. A beacon of hope, light piercing darkness.

Simeon then speaks to Mary and Joseph, confirming the purpose of this child;

"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."

Oh, how He reveals the thoughts in our hearts.

Simeon was not alone in his waiting, for there was another, Anna, a woman married seven years and then widowed, now eighty-four, and waiting;

"She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." {Luke 2:25-38}

Anna was the first to prophesy on the life work of Jesus upon his arrival. As Alfred Plummer writes in his commentary on Luke, Anna has just ushered in "a new era, with a new and living voice of prophecy... In this new era, the living voice of God will continue to speak about the messianic one. Anna is the first in a line of prophetic disciples who will speak about Jesus to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel." {via this interesting article}

I wonder what it was like to hold the hopes and dreams of generations of promise in your arms. Day after day of faithfulness, waiting for decades. 

Now he has arrived, and eyes are opened to see, hearts are opened to receive, the promises made to those who had gone before are finally realized. He has come to sacrifice, once, for all. He has come, and will come again.

Be blessed in your waiting, for He has Come. He is here for you.

xo,

November 24, 2012

sand and stars...

{ via }

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." { Isaiah 40:26 }

Have you ever spent a crystal clear night just standing outside, staring up at the stars? Some of my most peaceful memories are times such as these; on a sandy beach in the Shuswaps, big-sky nights out in the country, laying in a field just looking up.

I was reminded of a beautiful picture today at school as I was teaching Bible. We were unpacking Psalm 139:17&18, "How precious towards me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." Together we began to discuss how many grains of sand might be in a handful, 13,000? 145, 008? (some like to be really specific!) 50,000? How many could be on one beach? 1 million? 17 million? Imagine all the sand in all the beaches all around the world... how many grains then? 

Seven and eight-year old minds spark; 

"Whoa - like 50 million ba-zillion?" 

Yep. Like 50 million ba-zillion. That is just a small picture of God's loving thoughts toward us.

Her eyes sparkle as she raises her hand. A still, small voice inside says, listen to this.   

"I also know that God spoke to someone, I think... Abraham? And said his descendants would be like all the stars in the sky!"

Yes. He did. As these words come out of my mouth, God is speaking to me too.  "Abraham had to wait a looong time before he saw this promise fulfilled. Yet it was fulfilled, for God keeps his promises. Always. His love and faithfulness never leave us."

Here I am, and here He is, in the midst of twenty five little faces. 

We hold sand in one hand and stars in the other, and thank God for both His love and His promises.

November 16, 2012

peeling back the layers

Deep under my skin, a quiet fear re-surfaces. Over and over, with no less severity, it makes it's presence known, shouting loud in quiet moments,  colouring thoughts and feelings. A look at the insurance list was all it took for these layers to peel back. I try to decide, with limited information on our future, whether or not to replace the beautiful, treasured boxes of childrens books I had collected over many years; some for teaching, some for quiet hopes of children in my own home. I'm talking with my best friend and life partner and I begin sorting through the facts we know, which are few. Job opportunities are here now, but we have no idea for how long or how permanently. We aren't having much success in having our own children, but we have no idea for how long or how permanently. We are living in rented space and we have no idea for how long. Is anything permanent anyway?

I look up into his eyes and layers peel back, 

'I had saved so many special books, with dreams of reading them to a little person before tucking them into bed at night, and I just don't know if that is ever going to happen...

I struggle between being factual and being emotional, between waiting and giving up hope. To be totally honest, waiting is the hardest thing my heart has ever had to go through.

This week provided opportunity to pick up a book I had my eye on for the last year or so, a book I saw once on a Christian book store shelf last Christmas. A year later it catches my eye again, this time at our local library, so now it sits waiting on bedside and coffee tables, for a few moments to process. The title is what grabbed me; 'Plan B'. I know about Plan B's. I feel like I have lived many Plan B's, but it was the by-line which really gripped my heart; 'what do you do when God doesn't show up the way you thought he would?'. In a moment of complete, un-edited, deep-heart honesty, I realize my answer to that question is;  'you stop expecting him to show up'. I struggle as I know this deep seated thought runs against the grain of faith, hope and trust.

As I read, I realize this thought is a by-product of waiting, and struggling with not receiving the awaited for thing, hope or circumstance. Like water freezing slowly, and then all at once, so areas of my heart have become cold as I wait for future hopes that no-one can guarantee. A quote from Lewis Smead burst through the hardness, putting words to feelings with no voice; 'as creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending we cannot write. We wait for a 'not yet' that feels like a 'not ever'.'

Hebrews chapter 11, the faith chapter, reminds me of those who have gone before, waiting. By faith Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab... all waited and acted on promises given, even in darkness, even across roaring seas, even in jail, even in barrenness, even after wandering for 40 years in a desert. You would think, being a chapter on faith, that this section would conclude with the ultimate fulfillment of faith and the promises. Yet this is what I read next, an aftershock to the heart; "these were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised." {11:39} What? But Abraham and Sarah eventually had a child, Joseph eventually got out of jail, Moses did lead the Israelites out of slavery to eventually enter the Promised Land. How is this not receiving what was promised? So I look to the deeper heart of what was promised, and realize it was not a circumstance but a Savior. A Savior each giant of the faith was hoping for, a Savior none of these Old Testament heroes saw on earth. Here is where I must put my hope, not in a circumstance, but in a Savior.

All this waiting is necessary heart work. But oh it hurts. It hurts to not know. It hurts to keep waiting. I ride waves of being at peace with it all and being broken for it all. So I turn the hurt over to the only one who can fully comfort. I trust His processes, I believe in perseverance. Not merely persevering in hope for what I long for, but persevering in my true hope, trust and faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. The Work which bought my life that I may live for him and his plans and not my own. The hope that one day I can worship God with these giants of the faith, in heaven, where all is made perfect, "since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" {11:40}.

Here, in this waiting, is transforming work. Pete Wilson (author of Plan B) puts it this way, (in reference to the Saturday the disciples mourned and waited after Jesus' death on the cross); 

"We're interested in getting our problems solved and our lives back to normal. But what God is really interested in is who we can become... God has made his purposes clear. He's not interested in our having 'a good life'. He's interested in an intimate relationship with us. He's interested in our spiritual transformation.

Spiritual transformation does not take place on Sunday when we get what we want. It takes place on Saturday while we're waiting. It's what is forged while we're waiting, hoping, trusting."

Sometimes my waiting, hoping and trusting is in quiet moments of surrender. Sometimes it is in honestly confessing, 'I really don't feel like talking to You today. I want to keep you at arms length'. Sometimes it is in tears, and sometimes in laughter. I find that when I am open and honest with God, even with hard places in my heart, it opens me up to hear, to be comforted. It may come in lyrics to a song which speak to my heart that I may have ignored if I just tuned Him out. It may come as the feeling of strong arms and a soft voice. It keeps me communicating, even when I don't feel like I like Him very much. Openness and honesty are integral to this relationship.

When I have a student who is upset about something, the last thing I want them to do is to run and hide and pretend everything is ok. Or go and hurt someone else because they are hurting. I want to draw that student close, and really listen to what they have to say. I want to encourage them and care for them.  Does God desire any less for me? 

"Endure hardship as a discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined - and everyone undergoes discipline - then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed." {Hebrews 12:7-13 NIV}

In waiting, in discipline, where is my hope? I find it here;

"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant... Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." {Hebrews 12:22-24, 28}

In this waiting, he shakes out of my heart that which can be shaken, to re-plant that which cannot be shaken.

I haven't seen Fireproof, but I kind of like this song;


Are you waiting for something? A home, a job, a child, a hope for the future? Be blessed in your waiting dear ones, he is working in your heart.

November 13, 2012

Inspiration


"It was November - the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate windsongs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fog out of her soul." 
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

November has flown in on wings of sparkly snow above whistling winds. I am enjoying curling up under my favourite thrifted patchwork blanket, enjoying steaming mugs of tea and hot chocolate, catching up on some much overdue reading. These photos made me smile, especially the rabbit mug and chalkboard art. What inspires you this season?

November 10, 2012

the nitty-gritty of remaining

Dear little blog spot, how thankful I am to be returning to you on this still Saturday morning, a treasured piece of quiet amidst storms of busy. The pendulum has swung fast and hard, writing report cards, planning and teaching full days, caring for students, communicating with parents, and falling into bed after 15 hour work days. I would like to say that I begin and end each day in quiet time with the One in whom I must remain, but the truth is, our dance looks a little more like this right now;

- listening to worship music on the drive to school
- soaking up staff devotion time
- praying together with students for our day and their needs
- taking a deep breath every once in a while and remembering that this job is not about me, it's       about these kids, and the One who has placed me with them for this time period
- it's eating cereal or boiled eggs for supper and not feeling guilty that I haven't made a 'meat and     potatoes' meal
- it's having an ice-cream party for the last two blocks of school on Friday afternoon
- it's asking Neal to bring home pizza on Friday night
- it's learning to communicate my needs and accept help when it is offered (instead of pretending I     have it all together and can do it all!)
- it's going for that massage and enjoying it
- it's coming to peace with the fact that we have someone coming in to do cleaning, and realizing     that it is worth the investment in time management and mental health when we are both             working full time

Most of all, this dance of remaining is both in the finding and protecting of quiet moments. Moments I would naturally gravitate towards the inter-webs, or moments when I am tempted to stomp my feet and groan about the workload of many students and the demands of November. It is in these moments where I must train my mind away from mindlessness and selfishness and sit and talk with the One who called me to this season. 

This season is hard. It is also amazing.


I never knew the peace and power that came from praying with your students in the morning, or having staff devotions together, or praying in a small group with other teachers before you begin your day. What an amazing gift, and how it has brought perspective and hope to these days.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven"

This season is busy, it is demanding and crazy and more than I have ever taken on before. Yet my aim and goal for this season is that it would not be about me, but Christ in me. Christ in me serving these kids, writing those report cards, putting on the Band-Aids, settling the apologies and teaching about forgiveness, pointing - always pointing to the source of gratitude and provision. The One whom all this work is for.